The Midnight Writer: Alan Paul on the Definitive Inside History of The Allman Brothers Band

22nd April


If knowledge is power, then Alan Paul is the chairman of The Allman Brothers board. His definitive inside history of The Allman Brothers Band, One Way Out (St. Martin’s Press), is one of the most thorough, in-depth, and best-researched rock biographies I’ve had the pleasure to read — and if you know me, you know I pretty much read ‘em all. Though I’m a diehard Allmans fan and I’ve personally interviewed ABB members Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, Warren Haynes, and Derek Trucks, I learned something new with just about every turn of the page. Alan’s first-hand reporting and meticulous research, presented in the oral-history format and strategically interspersed with his own insightful commentary, is so spot-on that one could almost retitle the book One Way In.

I first met Alan in early 1991 when I started writing freelance for Guitar World (he remains a … Read More »

The Rhythmatist’s Method: Stewart Copeland on Restoring the 1925 Silent Film Ben-Hur, That Snare Drum Sound & a Few Police Matters

18th April


Never let it be said that Stewart Copeland has idle hands. The innovative Police percussionist and ace composer has been working tirelessly on composing a soundtrack to MGM’s 1925 silent film Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, which, in addition to being a legendary broad-sweeping and groundbreaking epic tale, is on record as being the most expensive film made in the silent era. Copeland’s score receives its world premiere Easter weekend on April 19 at the Virginia Arts Festival in Norfolk, Virginia, where it will accompany his 90-minute edit of the movie.

Recently, Copeland, 61, and I discussed how restoring Ben-Hur was both invigorating and taxing, his philosophy about surround-sound scoring, some of the secrets behind his infamous snare drum sound, and a few Police-related matters.

Mike Mettler: I’m extremely fascinated about your Ben-Hur restoration.

Stewart Copeland: Well, it is a humdinger. It all began with an … Read More »

Sunshine of Your Groove: Jack Bruce on Getting Silver Rails on Track, Recording at Abbey Road Studios & The Essence of Cream

17th April


The bottom end has never been quite the same since Jack Bruce picked up his first bass over 6 decades ago. The vaunted Cream bassist wrote the book on the art of the low-end hook, as his syncopated approach to playing bass helped shift pop music’s bottom-end emphasis away from just laying down root notes and fifths, in turn opening the door to a more adventurous yet melodically inclined style that laid the foundation for the rock explosion of the ’60s. Turns in both Manfred Mann and John Mayall’s bands set the table for Bruce to connect with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker and forge Cream, wherein the super Scotsman set the heavy-blues power-trio standard with epic runs and full-band interplay in songs like “I Feel Free,” “Spoonful,” “Politician,” and “Sunshine of Your Love.”

Once Cream curdled, Bruce delved further into … Read More »

Building the 5.1 Wall: Producer James Guthrie Discusses Pink Floyd and Roger Waters’ Surround Sound Plans at Academic Conference

14th April


Pink Floyd and music academia don’t usually mix. But that didn’t deter Gilad Cohen and Dave Molk from organizing the amazing “Pink Floyd: Sound, Sight, and Structure — Interdisciplinary Conference,” the first ever academic conference devoted to the mighty Floyd at Princeton University on April 10-13. In addition to scholarly discussions and live music, the linchpin was a three-album surround-sound listening session shepherded by Pink Floyd producer James Guthrie on Saturday and his keynote address on Sunday.

I was generously given the central sweet spot seat in the third row for Saturday’s surround-sound sessions at McAlpin Hall at Woolworth Music Center. First up was the world premiere of the 5.1 version of Roger Waters’ 1992 opus, Amused to Death, which was mixed by the symposium’s guest of honor, James Guthrie, the man who’s handled the direction of The Floyd’s sonic legacy since 1979′s The Wall. … Read More »

Mono a Mano: Retro King Nick Waterhouse on His Love of Vintage Vinyl & Mastering in Mono

9th April


Call him The King of Retro Cool. You may have seen Nick Waterhouse wondering “where you think you’re gonna go/when your time’s all gone?” in the current Lexus CT Hybrid “Live a Full Life” commercial campaign, but his super-snazzy brand of modern jazzabilly rock extends well beyond that 30-second snippet. His second full-length LP, Holly (Innovative Leisure), builds on the retro-rockin’ bed of 2011′s Time’s All Gone. Waterhouse and I recently convened to talk about Holly‘s sonic merits, his favorite vinyl reissues, his playback gear, and the benefits of recording in mono.

Mike Mettler: Was Holly recorded direct to tape?

Nick Waterhouse: It was! I did the record at Fairfax in Van Nuys, [California], which is where the Sound City studios used to be. Kevin Augunas was my co-producer on the record. We used four Scully 16-track recorders gotten from A&M Studios, so they’re really … Read More »

Tiers of Actual Sighs: Richard X. Heyman Puts The X in Songwriting & Pop Rocking Excellence

3rd April


Richard X. Heyman is a rock & roll lifer. I first became exposed to his indelible brand of garage pop on his 1990 solo album Living Room!! (Cypress), instantly falling for the hooks of “Union County Line” and “Local Paper.” (And, yes, I do have it on vinyl, folks.) Soon thereafter, I learned of his pioneering role in nearby Plainfield, New Jersey’s ’60s garage rockers The Doughboys, who continue performing live and releasing top-notch music to this day. (“Black Sheep,” “Why Can’t She See Me?,”“It’s a Crying Shame,” and “YOYO” are but four of my favorite modern-era Doughboys tracks.)

Heyman’s solo career has careened more toward the melodic side of the pop dial, though he does keep his garage roots intact. Last Fall, he conducted a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund his tenth solo record, naturally dubbed X (Turn-Up Records). … Read More »

Mad Dogs and Shelter People: Leon Russell Looks Back on an Amazing Life Journey

2nd April


“I’m basically what is known as a talented illusionist.” So says piano wizard Leon Russell, but the Oklahoma native is being more than somewhat modest. His C.V. is as impressive as they come: First-call member of the legendary ’60s L.A. studio collective known as The Wrecking Crew, co-founder of Shelter Records in 1969 with Denny Cordell, spearhead of Joe Cocker’s infamous 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, and beneficiary of a revived recording career by teaming up with Elton John on 2010′s T Bone Burnett-produced The Union. On his just-released Life Journey (UMe), Russell comes full circle to show his mastery of the form on tasty covers like his piano-vamp stab at Robert Johnson’s “Come on in My Kitchen,” a slip-slidin’ romp through “Fever,” and a swing-sational full-orchestral take on Duke Ellington’s “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good.” … Read More »

Go Ahead and Spin It to Me: Benmont Tench Breaks Down Why He Loves Lucky on Vinyl

26th March


“I don’t want to stop anyone from getting the CD, but vinyl is the truest way to hear this record,” says Benmont Tench about his new solo album, You Should Be So Lucky (Blue Note). “When you have Glyn Johns [The Rolling Stones, Eagles, The Who] recording something to tape, you really want to hear it on vinyl.” It’s hard to argue with the longtime Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers keyboardist, stepping out to be a frontman for the first time in his five-decades-long career. And spinning Lucky on 180-gram vinyl very much tells the tale of the details: the delicate brush drumwork and resonating bass on “Ecor Rouge,” the placement of the string quartet behind Tench’s organ lines on “Hannah,” and Tench’s deft touch on the ivories while a guitar solo caterwauls in the left channel on … Read More »

You Gotta Serve Somebody: Tony Hale on Taking Care of Veep Business, Every Day

24th March


Don’t mess with a man who knows how to guard a bag with his life. In this case, that would be Gary Walsh, the body man/personal aide played by Tony Hale on HBO’s Emmy-winning Veep, which sees its second season out on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download on March 25 and its third season premiere on April 6. Here, we talk about Gary’s undying love for VP Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), what’s ahead for Season 3, and how he would handle Frank Underwood from House of Cards.

Mike Mettler:  First, congratulations on your Emmy win. [Hale won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for Veep in 2013.] The obvious and most important question is: Where do you keep it?

Tony Hale: It is in my kitchen. My wife, who’s a makeup artist, also has an Emmy. Hers is on … Read More »

Takin’ It to the Pretzel Lowdown: Fagen, McDonald & Scaggs Go Soul Deep on Blu-ray

18th March


“Do you like good music?”

True, it’s a simple question with a fairly obvious answer, but when it’s posed by Michael “White Lightning” McDonald at the outset of “Sweet Soul Music,” you can’t help but wanna get up and testify a hearty “yeahhhh!” That’s but one of many call-and-response-worthy moments to be found on The Dukes of September: Live at Lincoln Center, released by 429 Records on Blu-ray and DVD on March 18.

The Dukes of September comprise of the core trio of Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, The Doobie Brothers’ Michael McDonald, and Boz Scaggs. All three have worked together in various roles and incarnations over the years, participated in the New York Rock and Soul Revue, and have toured collectively as the Dukes in 2010 and 2012. This 90-minute performance was shot in November 2012 in New York at the … Read More »

What They’re Doing: Rush Set to Re-release Self-Titled Debut Album on 200-Gram Vinyl

14th March


Call them the Re-Working Men.

On April 15, to mark Rush’s 40-year recording career, Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) will reissue the original Moon Records release of Rush as part of Universal’s reDISCovered vinyl series. Some history: In March 1974, Rush released their self-titled debut through the band’s own indie label, Moon Records, in Canada, and sold out of the initial 3,500-copy pressing. Moon Records would soon morph into Anthem Records, which launched in 1977 and continues to serve as the band’s Canadian record company. In the United States, Rush has been on Mercury, Atlantic, and Roadrunner.

The package looks to be impressive. Housed in a sturdy, custom box with a lift-off top, Rush is pressed on 200-gram, audiophile-grade vinyl. The mix comes from the original 1974 analog stereo masters, cut to copper plates using the Direct Metal Mastering (DMM) process at Abbey Road Studios … Read More »

Re-Ledded and Reloaded: Led Zeppelin Soars Again With Upcoming Remasters Series

13th March


Led Zeppelin soars again.

An extensive reissue program of all nine of the band’s studio albums will rollout in chronological order from Rhino/Atlantic/Swan Song, commencing with the June 3 release of deluxe editions of Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, and Led Zeppelin III. Each album has been remastered by Zep founder, guitarist, and producer Jimmy Page. The series will also feature previously unheard studio and live recordings, with each album containing a second disc of companion audio comprised of unreleased music related to that album. In the official press release, Page notes, “The material on the companion discs presents a portal to the time of the recording of Led Zeppelin. It is a selection of work in progress with rough mixes, backing tracks, alternate versions, and new material recorded at the time.”

We Zep fans have been waiting semi-patiently for these releases after they were first discussed seriously around … Read More »

Days of SQ Surpassed: The Timeless Flight of Justin Hayward and The Moody Blues

12th March


“I didn’t have the courage to go back to any of the masters and try to recreate those beautiful, real echoes,” says Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues about the surround-sound mixes he supervised for six of The Moodies’ “Classic Seven” albums: Days of Future Passed, On the Threshold of a Dream, To Our Children’s Children’s Children, A Question of Balance, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and Seventh Sojourn. (In case you were wondering, there weren’t any multitrack masters available for In Search of the Lost Chord.) All six of those 5.1 mixes — done by Paschal Byrne and Mark Powell and built on the original quad mixes supervised by producer Tony Clarke and constructed by engineer Derek Varnals — appear in Timeless Flight (Threshold/UMC), the band’s mighty, 50-year-career-spanning 17-disc box set. Yes, there is a more economical 4-disc version … Read More »

An Amazing Journey Explained: The Who – Sensation – The Story of Tommy on Blu-ray

11th March


“I felt the band, and myself as a composer, deserved one big, last splurge,” says Pete Townshend at the outset of The Who – Sensation – The Story of Tommy (Eagle Vision). And the key to getting there, he adds, was to do “an album as a piece of art.” Enter Tommy, the groundbreaking 1969 rock opera that raised the album-as-artform bar set by The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band just 2 years earlier. Released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 11, Sensation chronicles the trajectory of a band that catapulted from a buzzworthy pop act to an international, well, sensation, thanks to the depth of Townshend’s tale of a deaf, dumb, and blind kid who did quite a bit more than sure play a mean pinball.

On Sensation, Townshend, singer Roger Daltrey, and other Who principals thoughtfully dissect Tommy … Read More »

Not Like Everybody Else Does: Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs Totally Cover the ’80s

10th March


“The thing that was so interesting about the ’80s was that it was very diverse,” says Susanna Hoffs — and if anyone should know, it’s the longtime Bangles lead singer/guitarist who saw much Egyp-she-an-fueled success in that decade. “It was a smarter, cooler time, and it’s good to see that it’s more popular than ever,” says Matthew Sweet — and if anyone should know, it’s the multi-instrumentalist/songwriter who’s long mastered the tone of that decade and added a few twists of his own to boot.

And if there’s one thing I, like, totally know for sure is that Sweet and Hoffs got their take on the decade just right with their latest collaboration, Under the Covers, Vol. 3 (Shout! Factory). Vol. 3 was one of my favorite albums of 2013, and it continues to connect with me — from … Read More »

Just Breathe: Kris Dirksen of Methodic Doubt on Scoring Cinemax’s Hard-Hitting Banshee

7th March


“Just breathe.” That was one of the main kicker phrases for the first season of Cinemax’s hit show Banshee, and it’s an apt description for what viewers needed to remember to do in order to keep up with the show’s breakneck pace of pulse-pounding action, sex, drama, and deep character intrigue. Banshee‘s top-drawer original score only adds to its inherent grit, and credit must go to the duo known as Methodic Doubt for turning in such a haunting and foreboding soundtrack week after week.

Methodic Doubt is a Los Angeles-based composing partnership comprising of Vancouver native Kris Dirksen and Pittsburgh-bred Dane Short. With Season 2 now coming to a head (Episode 9 airs March 7, and the season finale airs March 14), I spoke with Dirksen about the duo’s creative process, the gear they use, and what might be … Read More »

Total 5.1 Mass Retain: Steven Wilson on Mixing Yes’ Close to the Edge in Surround Sound

26th February


“On the surround mix, it sounds just like you’re in the room with Steve Howe while he’s playing those guitar harmonics.” Steven Wilson is describing the clarity of the gorgeous acoustic intro to “And You And I,” the second track on Yes’ groundbreaking 1972 LP, Close to the Edge. (Said intro is keenly accented by Rick Wakeman’s understated organ fills that lightly season the rear channels.) And I hate to sound like a broken, er, record, but the one true king of transformative surround-sound mixing (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, XTC) has raised the all-channel bar yet again, for Wilson’s transcendent 192/24 5.1 CTTE mix is as pure and true as you’ll ever hear it on Panegyric’s Definitive Edition Blu-ray/CD combo package.

His wholly immersive, ear-boggling 5.1 mix achieves total mass attainment, highlighted by Wakeman’s uplifting, fully enveloping … Read More »

The Only Way to Travel: Flying Solo with Former Moody Blues Mellotron Maven Mike Pinder

12th February


“We would have done surround sound at the time if it had been available.” Original Moody Blues keyboardist Mike Pinder is discussing the always-enveloping signature orchestral sound of the band he was a part of for its first 15 years. Much of the Moodies’ core “Classic Seven” catalog has since seen a series of 5.1 releases in the interim, and Pinder’s innovative usage of the mellotron helped take many of those mixes (“Higher and Higher,” “Watching and Waiting,” “Legend of a Mind”)  to the threshold of aural perfection.

Pinder cut his first solo album, The Promise, in 1976, while the band was on a break. After leaving the group 2 years later and concentrating on computer-related projects in California, Pinder eventually followed it up with Among the Stars in 1994. Both releases, along with a behind-the-scenes DVD, are part … Read More »

All You Need Is LOVE: The Beatles’ Revolution Lives on at The Mirage in Las Vegas

7th February


“Love is all around you.” It’s a phrase that enveloped me in full during the climax of The Beatles — LOVE. My reaction? “Yeah yeah yeah!” The 7:00 p.m. performance on January 10, 2014 was my fifth time seeing this Cirque du Soleil extravaganza in its 7 years (and counting) at The Mirage in Las Vegas. I was perfectly positioned in Section 200 in Row M, Seat 13, for what was going to unfold here, there, and everywhere around me. And you really do need to attend LOVE multiple times to absorb all of the many nuances of its sensory-overloading A/V spectacle.

LOVE is a visual tour de force — a hallmark of all Cirque productions — tracing The Beatles’ WWII roots alongside the idealism and eventual denouement of the ’60s up through the present day. The custom-built theater … Read More »

He’s a Hi-Res Star: Engineer Steve Hoffman on Remastering Four Deep Purple Classics

29th January


“I want to hear what the band heard during playback in the studio. And I want to respect the sound that the engineers and producers tried so hard to capture.” It’s a mantra engineer Steve Hoffman follows whenever he remasters classic, iconic albums, and perhaps those words should be etched between the monitors perched above the mixing consoles in every mastering studio across the globe. One recent labor of reissued love is near and dear to Hoffman’s audiophile heart – namely, The Audio Fidelity Collection limited-edition box set that houses four classic Deep Purple albums he remastered: In Rock (1970), Fireball (1971), Machine Head (1972), and Who Do We Think We Are (1973). All were previously released individually on 24-karat gold discs by the Audio Fidelity label (and are all now quite hard to find). While Hoffman, 57, … Read More »

Still Climbing: Bruce Springsteen Fulfills High Hopes on New LP

14th January


Could there be a more apt title for an album these days than High Hopes? While there are those who continue to loudly (and, well, annoyingly) ring the death knell for the album format, Bruce Springsteen once again proves the viability of the LP concept, making every song count on his 18th studio (ahem) album.

Ostensibly a collection of disconnected songs Springsteen had stockpiled over the past decade or so, High Hopes (Columbia) actually threads together quite well, with a common theme of ascendance and transcendence squarely at the forefront. (In fact, this theme has dominated much of The Boss’s post-millennial work.)

The title track opens with a NIN-like loop before Springsteen’s main Hopes foil, the ever-adventurous and innovative guitarist Tom Morello, comes in with his signature saddle-squall style. Acoustic guitar takes root in the left channel while Charlie Giordano’s … Read More »

Steven Wilson’s Raven in 5.1 on Blu-ray: The Undisputed Surround Sound Standard

1st January


Just when you think Steven Wilson is at the surround sound pinnacle, he ratchets it up another level.

I first heard The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) at a playback session in New York’s Avatar Studios back on January 15, 2013. And this is how you know I’m super-hardcore dedicated to championing the glories of 5.1, since January 15 was literally the day after I had returned from a full, exhilarating but exhaustive week at CES in Las Vegas. But nothing was gonna stop me from hearing Raven in the best environment possible.

Right from the outset of that listening session, I (and everyone in the room) knew Raven was something special. Since then, I’ve played the album countless times, and I can unequivocally say that the 96/24 LPCM Blu-ray mix of The Raven That Refused to Sing … Read More »

The SoundBard’s Top 25 Albums of 2013

31st December


Damn the naysayers — I say the album format lives! With that vital declaration out of the way, it’s high time to cite the records that caught hold of my expert ear over the past 12 months — the full-length discs and/or LPs I consider most worthy of purchase, hi-res download, and/or dropping the needle on! Here, in reverse order, are my favorite 25 albums of 2013. Happy spinning!

25. Jim James: Regions of Light and Sound of God. Mind-/soul-/ear-expanding. Amen, J-man.

24. Kings of Leon: Mechanical Bull. Cojones-shaking rawk.

23. Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs: Under the Covers, Vol. 3. Sid and Susie give the ’80s a deep, loving soul kiss. Read my interview with Sid and Susie here.

22. The Rides: Can’t Get Enough. Super Session, Millennial Style: Stephen Stills, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Barry Goldberg burn on down the … Read More »

The SoundBard’s Top 25 Songs of 2013

31st December


It’s that time of year: Time to cite the tunes that caught hold of my expert ear over the past 12 months — the ones I consider most worthy of purchase, hi-res download, and/or dropping the needle on at 45 rpm! Here, in reverse order, are my favorite 25 songs of 2013. Happy listening!

25. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts: “Any Weather.” Forecast calls for her continued reign. Co-meteorologized with Foomaster Dave Grohl.

24. U2: “Ordinary Love.” As in, “Extra-” and “This Is No.” And Mandela smiles from The Great Beyond.

23. Michael Monroe: “Ballad of the Lower East Side.” Punkin’-A NYC luv letter. Sneer perfection.

22. Baby Woodrose: “Bubblegum.” Flip your tongue like… super-chewy Euro-garage pop!

21. Palmyra Delran: “Some Day Soon.” Hopeful, wistful, wonderful: Yes, please. Stick it out — rewards ahead.

20. Radio Days: “Love and Fun.” Beach-blanket underground-pop rabble-rouser.

19. Charles … Read More »

Slidin’ Onto Wax: Guitar Prodigy Derek Trucks Spins LPs Wherever He May Roam

20th December


“That’s the cartridge you want — the one that’ll get you kicked out of the house!” And that’s Derek Trucks, empathizing over the price of high-end audiophile gear, both in terms of how it affects your wallet and your personal life. “I’ve had that conversation too,” he adds with a chuckle. The good-natured Trucks drenched his sweet-toned slide-guitar stamp all over one of 2013’s best albums, the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Made Up Mind (Masterworks; you can read my 4 1/2-star review of it in the Discs & Downloads section on the Sound & Vision website.) Here, Trucks, 34, and I commune over his favorite gear and LPs, the albums that made the deepest impressions on him growing up, how good Mind sounds on vinyl, and its thematic album parallel. (Hint: “Darling, won’t you ease my worried mind” is … Read More »

The Healing Hands of Musical Love: Justified’s Walton Goggins and His Sharp Storyteller’s Ear

17th December


“For me personally, I like the singer/songwriters who tell stories,” says Walton Goggins, and if anyone knows how to get into a character and tell a story and tell it damn well, it’s him. In Season 4 of Justified, out now on Blu-ray, Goggins’s character, the perpetually morally challenged Boyd Crowder, found redemption in the arms of love — specifically with the feisty and unbendingly loyal Eva Crowder (Joelle Carter). But Boyd also found that such deep love can come at a terrible price. Hmmm… that scenario sounds like a few lines pulled straight out of a U2 song or two, doesn’t it? And that’s quite fitting, since, according to Goggins, one of the iconic Irish band’s albums “changed my life.” Earlier this year, Goggins and I discussed things like shooting in high-def, long-term character development, and his … Read More »

Holiday Gift Guide Special: 108 Rock Star Guitars to Riff & Roll on Your Coffee Table

12th December


“Nothing moves me like the sound of a guitar.” It’s the opening sentence to author Lisa S. Johnson’s passionate introduction to 108 Rock Star Guitars (Glitterati Incorporated), her lavishly photographed and beautifully bound ode to a score of axes ‘n planks that have created some of the most indelible sounds in our lifetime, and I swear I could have written that line myself. I was enamored with guitars even before I learned how to form the chords that open Yes’ “Roundabout” on a no-name acoustic in a junior high school guitar class, and to this day my attention is rapt whenever I hear certain riffs or see guitar wizards both budding and seasoned practicing their own special brands of fretboard magic live.

108 Rock Star Guitars captures many of those jamtastic fretboard-induced feelings between its covers, so if you’re … Read More »

The Once and Future Analog King: Boston’s Tom Scholz and the Tales of His Sacred Tapes

5th December


“Pretty much everything that goes into the music is as analog as I can make it,” says Tom Scholz, chief sonic architect of the longtime rock powerhouse known as Boston. It’s taken him 10 years to deliver the band’s sixth studio album, Life, Love & Hope (Frontiers) — “But who’s counting?” he chuckles — and discerning audiophiles know it’s well worth the wait. Signature stacked harmonies, lovingly layered guitars, emotionally uplifting vocals, sheaves of killer riffs — what’s not to like? (And, yes, Virginia, there will be vinyl, sometime in early 2014.) “All I can say is the tone, the sound, and the way it’s all put together is the way I like it,” Scholz admits. “And I’m just lucky there are other people who like the same things I do.”

Scholz, 66, and I have spoken a few … Read More »

Sharp Jammin’ Men: ZZ Top Grill Up Some Tasty Grooves at the State Theatre

19th November


“Same three guys. Same three chords.” It’s a refrain that ZZ Top guitarist extraordinaire Billy Gibbons has been preaching from the stage for years, but it’s how this little ol’ band from Texas mixes up that deceptively basic formula with its own brand of down-home, blues-slathered gee-tar grease that keeps me coming back for more.

And they sure laid down the grooves during a tight 85-minute set at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey on November 18, 2013. Over the years, I’ve seen the mighty Top play hockey arenas (Madison Square Garden in NYC on January 28, 1991 and June 6, 1994, and Meadowlands Arena in NJ on August 30, 1991) and mid-size venues (Radio City Music Hall in NYC on October 25, 1996, and the Beacon Theatre in NYC on November 10, 2005), and I definitely … Read More »

R.I.P. Lou Reed: The Great American Aural Novelist

28th October


The garage-punk poet laureate has closed his eyes and passed thru fire. Lou Reed died in Amagansett, New York on October 27, 2013, at age 71, from complications following a liver transplant back in May. As rightfully lauded as Reed is for his confessional, envelope-pushing songwriting and overall groundbreaking punk aesthetic, he was also a pioneer in manipulating, harnessing, and experimenting with sound. One quote that has cropped up fairly often in a number of the initial tributes and obituaries is Lou having said that when you put all of his written work together, you come up with the great American novel. But that’s only part of this tried-and-true NYC Man’s story. I submit that Lou Reed was one of the rock era’s first great American aural novelists. To borrow one of his best lines, he was a … Read More »

King of Hertz: The Continuing Saga of Tony Levin’s Low-End Progressions in the High-End World

25th October

Above, an exclusive YouTube clip of Levin Minnemann Rudess jamming on “Marcopolis”


“I work hard on the music end of things, and record my bass parts as high quality as I can.” That, in a nutshell, is the mission statement for Tony Levin, noted bassmaster and Chapman Stick innovator known for his sharp-fingered low-end work with the likes of King Crimson and Peter Gabriel. At present, his holy mission specifically applies to the down-low flavors he’s concocted for Levin Minnemann Rudess (Lazy Bones Recordings), a 60-minute ride through quite progressive waters. His LMR namesake triomates are drummer Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, UKZ) and keyboardist extraordinaire Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, Dixie Dregs). LMR is on CD, but you should only be interested in obtaining the Deluxe Edition, which contains a separate DVD with filmed interviews, improv sessions, … Read More »

The Vinyl Brothers, Session 1: Tommy Shaw & The SoundBard on Eric Clapton’s Underrated Clapton LP

21st October


Get Tommy Shaw and me, Mr. SoundBard, in a room talking about music, and chances are you’ll have to drag us out by our respective ears to get us on the way to our next destinations. (Just ask Styx’s ever-patient, ever-gracious tour manager and assistant tour manager.) Tommy and I bonded over a mutual passion for music, and especially vinyl, years ago, and we share our LP love regularly in text, photo, and email. A typical message might begin along the lines of “Look what I found!” and subsequently “You won’t believe how GOOD this album sounds!” — followed soon thereafter by a fervent discourse on all of the aural subtleties and production nuances that cause us to pick the needle up and play that record again and again and again.

That’s my ’round-the-bend way of saying welcome to … Read More »

Harmonic Converger: Graham Nash Unveils a Life Full of Wild Tales

15th October


“Music is astounding, isn’t it?” Graham Nash is genuinely enamored with the wonders of sound — and so am I. There’s always a special twinkle in his eye whenever we get together to talk about the indelible music he’s made since the early 1960s, the new music he’s planning to make next, and how he plans to have it all, both new and old, sound even better. I had just gotten back from Denver when I met Graham, 71, at the Broadway HQ of Random House publishing arm Crown Archetype in New York City on Monday, September 30, 2013 to dive deep into his just-published and quite revelatory autobiography, Wild Tales. After marveling at the shadows and shades present in some amazing NYC skyline photos he had taken earlier in the day on his ever-present camera, we got … Read More »

Brick Layers: Ian Anderson Cements a Pair of Great-Sounding TAABs at the Beacon Theatre

12th October


“No way to slow down.” Though it’s a line from the night’s lone encore (more on that later), it also aptly describes Ian Anderson’s energetic 128-minute set at the Beacon Theatre in New York City on October 10. As billed, Anderson and his ace six-piece band ran through Thick as a Brick 1 & 2 in a pair of stellar sets with a refreshing sense of verve and vitality. Long cited as a pioneer of progressive rock thanks to his 4-decades-plus of fronting Jethro Tull, Anderson and his whirling-dervish cavalcade of TAAB1&2 cronies inspired me to coin a new hybrid term for what he (and they) do onstage: jig-gressive rock.

Most important for these audiophile ears, the sonics were stellar all night long. Since its 2009 renovation and restoration, the Beacon Theatre has been a bastion for great sound, … Read More »

Rock of Ages: The Band’s Robbie Robertson on Finding the Balance in Live Mixing and Playing With Bob Dylan

10th October


“Everybody loved it — except me. I was so not satisfied with it. It was my fault.” That’s Robbie Robertson, telling it like it is back in August about the original mix of The Band’s acclaimed 1972 double live album, Rock of Ages (Capitol). It only took 40-plus years for Robertson to get his wish to remix — and expand — that music to his satisfaction by culling the best performances of The Band’s 4-night stand at New York’s Academy of Music on December 28-31, 1971 for a stellar five-disc box set, Live at the Academy of Music 1971 — The Rock of Ages Concerts (Capitol/UMe). Audiophiles take note: Disc 5, a DVD, is mixed in surround sound by Bob Clearmountain under Robertson’s supervision, and it gives the proper dimensionality to an important live recording that’s simply been, … Read More »

The Band’s Robbie Robertson on Here’s Little Richard and New Orleans: Home of the Blues

10th October

MIKE METTLER: What was the first record you ever bought?
ROBBIE ROBERTSON: The first record I ever bought with my own money was Here’s Little Richard [released March 1957, on Specialty Records]. I was addicted to his song “Rip It Up.” It was the most amazing shuffle. It still is, to this day.

METTLER: Do you still have it?
ROBERTSON: No, I don’t. I wore it out. [chuckles]

METTLER: Is there one record you’d consider your favorite, the one you keep going back to?
ROBERTSON: Well, there was a favorite of mine back then called New Orleans: Home of the Blues [1961, on the Minit label]. And it was a variety of New Orleans artists, like Jesse Hill doing “Ooh Poo Pah Doo.” I was also a big fan of Huey “Piano” Smith and His Clowns back then. When I got this record, it took … Read More »

Flaming Lips Frontman Wayne Coyne Finds His Groove on Vinyl

9th October

In the above YouTube clip, Wayne Coyne and I discuss “You Are Alone,” the song that opens Side C of the 2 LP set of The Flaming Lips‘ latest full-length aural delight/challenge, The Terror (2013). Notes Coyne of the song, “it consists of a strange emotional chord that was the true spark for the album.”

The Lips frontman and I were in the Lips’ dressing room at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, New Jersey right after soundcheck back on May 16, and, inevitably, our discussion turned to collecting vinyl and how to store it all before it completely overruns our respective households. “Wasn’t it Charles Bukowksi who said, ‘Find what you love and let it kill you’?” he wondered. “That’s pretty much what we’re doing, right? Yeah, I like the big format. I like all the nuances. The distortion, the murkiness, … Read More »

Welcome to!

7th October

Hello and welcome to! I am your humble SoundBard, Mike Mettler. Some of you know me from my years as Editor-In-Chief of such fine publications as Sound & Vision, Car Stereo Review, Mobile Entertainment, and Road Gear, and/or as a contributor to publications like Musician, High Fidelity, Stereo Review, Guitar Player, Guitar World, and Bass Player, to name but a few. For the record, I continue to write all of the Music reviews and conduct artist interviews for both the print and Web versions of Sound & Vision. And you can find some of my archival music-centric writing at

However you came to the SoundBard universe, I’m glad you’re here. You’ll find the common thread to all of my writing is this: I am deeply passionate about great-sounding music in all of its forms, and that passion is at … Read More »